Here’s the irony. The most important step in taking the reins of your finances is acknowledging who really holds the reins of your finances. (Hint: it’s not you.)
Here are four tips to help you put God first in your financial decision making.
1. RECOGNIZE HIS HAND IN YOUR INCOME-EARNING ABILITY
Consider the following statements and decide if each is true or false:
• The skills, talents, and personal qualities that help you earn a living are God-given gifts.
• Your job—that is, your ability to earn money—is a blessing (regardless of how you may feel about it on bad days).
• Without God, your financial outlook would be much bleaker.
If you answered “true” to any of these statements, you’re well on your way to understanding who holds the reins of your finances. Now it’s time to give back to the One who gave everything to you.
2. UNDERSTAND WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT TITHES AND OFFERINGS
Jesus wasn’t easily impressed when it came to acts of service. One woman, though, managed to capture his attention and earn his praise without even trying.
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41–44)
A God-honoring tithe requires sacrifice. It is not easy to make—nor should it be. The apostle Paul took things a step further, arguing that it’s not just the amount of the gift that matters; it’s the attitude behind it.
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Finally, tucked at the end of the Old Testament is this promise from God to his people, relayed by the prophet Malachi:
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10)
The passage from Malachi is not necessarily a guarantee of future riches. Blessings come in many different forms, including peace of mind, wisdom, and the privilege of being part of God’s work in the world. But one thing is clear: God promises to care for those who remember him.
3. PRAY FOR WISDOM IN ALLOCATING YOUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
Some people like to give their entire gift to their local church. They trust church leaders to distribute it as needed. Others take a more hands-on approach, dividing their tithes and offerings among several ministries (including their church) that are close to their heart.
If you’re not sure how to allocate the money you give back to God, pray about it. Ask him to make you aware of the needs around you and to guide you in making wise decisions.
4. IMAGINE WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH YOUR MONEY—THAT IS, HIS MONEY
If your tithing starts to seem rote—or if your motivation starts to falter—spend some time considering how God might use it to make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t think in terms of helping a church or an organization. Think of the people who will benefit from your faithful giving.
• Villagers in a developing country who will no longer have to walk miles for clean water every day, thanks to a well that was dug in their community
• Children who will make their first steps into God’s Word, thanks to a new interactive Bible study app
• A single mother whose prayers are answered by a donation that allows her to buy a reliable used car
A subtle change of approach can shift your thinking from How much am I required to give? to How many people can God help with my gift?
Once you put God at the center of your decision making, you can proceed to the nuts and bolts of crafting a financial strategy to maximize your generosity.
This blog post has been adapted from the special-edition magazine Unlock the Bible's Secrets, which is now available in stores where magazines are sold.